Vince and I were deep in discussion when the new legal officer arrived.
Since the death, thirty three years ago, of Mr. Beltzer, we hadn’t had a real lawyer.
We had used Mrs. Cummings, who had been Beltzer’s para-legal until her retirement. Then, we went to her understudy, Billy Frank, whom many of us liked although he was a rather prickly character.
He was good at what he did, however.
Often he could reason so well that many lawsuits were dropped or settled for far less than expected. In those few cases where the dispute became a lawsuit, we hired an attorney on a one off.
There had never been a problem. People who recalled Beltzer said that Billy was doing a great job. Yet, suddenly, the Directors decided to spend money and hire a real lawyer full time.
The Directors went through the time consuming and expensive process of taking applications. They went over resumes. They shortlisted. They set up interviews. They went on to a second tier cutting thirty potentials to five.
Then they selected Joseph Cox.
I hadn’t much expectation.
During the years I'd worked for the Company I found most decisions they made either second best or an absolute disaster.
Billy Frank would probably have
been a real lawyer if he wasn’t
constantly stepped on by his
Alvin was on the Board of
Directors and never liked Billy.
I don't have the hot gossip,
I just know Alvin despised Billy.
Alvin would find tasks for Billy to do, which would cause a delay in completely the ‘legal work’ . Every delay was expensive.
On some occasions it meant the problem would become so infected that it had to be sent to a lawyer who would charge heavily for his services.
My View (Off the Record)
In my view, we didn't need the expense of an in-house lawyer as we didn't have more than two dozen 'threats' in a year. Some fell apart after the first reading. A few needed a meeting to settle.
Billy had settled most of them. Hence only three or four matters required litigation. The verdict was often in our favour.
To hire a lawyer, full time, to deal with these few cases was close to giving him or her an all expense paid vacation, for there was very little to do.
However, the Board decided to waste money and hire 'in house' counsel.
On this particular day, at this particular time I was talking to Vince, who was the security manager, when Cox entered.
“That’s the new lawyer...” Vince said. I turned to view the stranger as Vince continued; “Let’s introduce ourselves.”
We walked the ten steps and;
“Hi, I’m Vincent Purdue,” and he did a handshake, “This is Molly Fine,” and I put out my hand. Cox touched it a nanosecond, then seeing three typists enter, ran to introduce himself to them.
Well, this was queer.
Vince and I met eyes, shrugged, went back to where we were sitting, and continued our discussion.
A little later at the meeting in which he would be formally introduced to the staff I found Cox totally uninspiring and much of what he said was in contradiction to our practices.
Later, by the coffee urn, I admitted I didn’t like him.
Everyone jumped on that and I was told to 'give him a chance’ and other such remarks, which I have learned to hear, nod, ignore.
When I say I don’t like someone I will eventually have proof as to why, and so will everyone else.
Cox started being Mr. Friendly.
He spoke to every member of
staff as if he were interested
in what we had to say.
I could see he was only
looking to 'slot’ us.
I think he was surprised at my high status, but didn't mention the slight he had paid me.
I listened to him with half an ear but picked up that he saw Billy as a threat. This is because for the past eleven years Billy had done really well. Very few of his decisions needed to be questioned.
Cox tried to get me to criticize Billy but I played disinterested and distracted, so he said more than he ought have. I realised that Cox wanted to be the centre of the universe. I watched him attempt to turn people against Billy. This made people want to defend Billy. .
Cox ran behind Alvin trying to please him as if Alvin was the only director. Stan and Mark only caught his eye when Alvin went away for two weeks. When Alvin returned, Cox was back playing tail to the dog.
No one liked Alvin. He wasn’t all that competent, bright, and was, very much, a legend in his own mind.
Alvin was on the Board before his father had appointed him twenty years ago. Alvin's father was long dead, but Alvin was still bobbling around, acting as if he were the President of the Company.
So there's Cox befriending the most disliked and unpopular Director.
As Time Went By
Cox made a lot of mistakes he needn’t have. If he’d relied more on Billy...and if Billy was more reliable...but Billy, having been kicked aside like rubbish wasn't going to make Cox look good.
Billy went on vacation during the busiest time for legal disputes, leaving Cox to make a hash of it.
Numerous members of staff were passing Anti-Cox remarks at the coffee urn. I smiled smugly, but didn't say a word. I was going to sit back and enjoy the show.
There were lawsuits, there were complaints, internal and external. When I was informed I make one of those sighs instead of saying; "I told you so."
Anyway, the business fumbled on as it could and it came time for the Directors to decide whether or not they wanted to keep Cox.
No one, not even Alvin was impressed with him.
Cox was told that he would not be appointed.
At this Cox went around saying ‘Goodbye’ to people who were unmoved.
He got around to me late in the day.
“Gonna miss you guys,” he said.
I looked at him in astonishment. I think for maybe a quarter of a second he might have been aware of his own phoniness but I didn’t stick around.to find out.
I couldn't squelch my laughter as I went down the hall.